Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties
Mar 13, 2015
I had to take a couple of breaks from this Atlantic piece on how awful it is that the First Amendment allows unpleasant people to say unpleasant things in an unpleasant manner.
Yes, freedom does mean that some people will live and speak in a different manner than you – maybe even in a way that is offensive. Speaking out and telling them how offensive they are is often a great tool to get them to quiet down. In fact, such results might even be considered social shaming, which is a form of punishment that exists outside of government. It involves things like individual people making the decision to no longer support the people who offend them and letting them suffer social consequences that can often be extremely unpleasant. However, the Atlantic writer appears to believe that since such punishment doesn’t involve a police gun to the head, handcuffs, and a court room, it’s not actually any punishment at all.
I think what really got me going was the extreme elitism on display in this bit:
No one with a frontal lobe would mistake this drunken anthem for part of an uninhibited and robust debate about race relations. … If the First Amendment has become so bloated, so ham-fisted, that it cannot distinguish between such filth and earnest public debate about race, then it is time we rethink what it means.
It would seem that the argument is that if you can’t speak eloquently and aren’t engaged in thoughtful debate, then your First Amendment rights should be “rethought.”
I have to say that one reason this elitism on speech probably drove me a little more up the wall today is because I just witnessed someone in another forum who, to be blunt, is currently incapable of speaking eloquently or engaging in what the writer would consider “earnest public debate.” While her form of rather odd text speak at all times is nearly impossible for others to follow, that doesn’t mean the government needs to declare that she deserves less in the way of protection for her speech than what I deserve because I am likely capable of being more articulate in expressing the same things.
Freedom means that some people will make different choices that you don’t like. The beauty of freedom is that when those people are in charge, you can make the choices they don’t like and feel confident that you won’t be put away for the “crime” of those statements and actions.
Feb 25, 2015
Emily Miller’s application for a carry permit was approved. About time.
My guess is they figured that doing so and hoping she went away was better than the alternative
Jan 28, 2015
According to the ACLU, the DEA and ATF were conspiring to use license plate readers at gun shows. Presumably all this was because, war on drugs, and because, terrorism or something like that. You have to wonder with as pervasive as the surveillance state is becoming, with technology enabling it to ever greater heights, how long we have until there’s de facto registration even without the government even needing to resort to 4473s. Just watch a gun range for a while via drone or satellite, and just start compiling a list. Soon you won’t even need people to do this. You won’t even need to specifically focus the camera on the gun range. It’ll all be done algorithmically by computers, compiling tons and tons of data to be called up and analyzed any time the powers that be want to scrutinize someone.
The scary part is, I don’t know if there’s a good way to stop it. The chest pounders among us would perhaps suggest such a state deserves “Second Amendment remedies,” and it’s hard to argue that such a persuasive surveillance state has any legitimacy. But the technology will be there. Would you trust anyone with it?
Dec 22, 2014
From the Washington Post (of all places), comes this piece on the normalization of the surveillance state via a childrens’ book.
(My wife and I are both in agreement on this; we won’t have the little informer in our house).
Incidentally, I find it interesting that you apparently have to break an ingrained more against “tattling” or “telling.” There is something very low-level in our makeup (either social, culturalm or genetic) that works against providing negative information to an authority (be it parental or outside the family unit).
Sep 24, 2014
The Express-Times in Lehigh Valley area decided to attack those concerned about potential constitutional violations in an op-ed, saying that those who have had their rights violated and want to stand up for them are merely “opportunistic” and too concerned with themselves to put up with a “temporary intrusion” that has lasted at least a week.
They even highlight a quote from the Pennsylvania State Police’s PR guy that assures us that not all people are completely cut off from their homes. Citizens can trust that if the police think you actually have a good reason to go to your home, then they will be the ones to decide if/when you get access, and only under escort if they like your reasons for wanting to go home.
So, I’d like to know how the Express-Times staff would react to the news that the state police argue that their coverage of the events is helping the suspect evade law enforcement. Sure, they have no actual evidence that the suspect has access to their papers, but it’s a possibility that he might be in the area and using the resources to evade them – like he might possibly be hiding out in every single car in the area or every home in the area.
Therefore, the police ask that the Express-Times stop publishing their paper during this “temporary intrusion” and that any efforts to argue that they have a First Amendment right that must be respected is a case of them being “opportunistic” and overly greedy with their Constitution rights claims.
Some public relations officer will remind their editors that they aren’t really blocking all access to their publishing equipment – because if the police determine there’s any message worth hearing, then they will provide an armed escort to any reporter or editor they hand select to supervise their limited visit to the printer.
I find it hard to believe that the Express-Times staff wouldn’t be on the phone to lawyers trying to argue for their Constitutional rights. Why are they condemning anyone else who is concerned that in specific instances, perhaps law enforcement have gone too far and actually crossed the line into violating someone’s rights?
According to another report on the situation, attorney Josh Prince has already talked to someone who was forced out of their home, despite having three dogs there, and has been refused access to care for them since Sunday. It was Tuesday when that story was posted. The New York Times found a man who was thrown to the ground and detained in handcuffs just for going to his own home.
Regardless of what the public relations officer is telling the media, it’s clear that there are reports from those forced to leave that the police are keeping people away from their homes. If they aren’t keeping them away from their homes, it’s clear that at least some officers have gotten a little too quick to act against local citizens. Any lawyer who is helping someone understand their rights – and whether or not they have been violated – should be applauded.
Sep 22, 2014
I can’t tell you how much I loved seeing a post from Pennsylvania attorney Josh Prince asking anyone in Pike and Monroe Counties to contact him if their rights have been violated based on an article linked here earlier today. I would love to see more people considering legal challenges to behavior like this from law enforcement when they cross the line and violate someone’s rights.
UPDATE: And, he actually provides tips on how to document everything regarding the violation of rights that one would need to create a good case.
Also, check the comments of both posts and note the people who are horrified at the idea that some lawyer is trying to let people know what to do to prepare a legal case if their rights are violated. They don’t understand why anyone has an issue with rights being violated as long as they are told someone is keeping them “safe.”
Sep 22, 2014
The manhunt for an accused cop killer is heating up in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I should be clear that I hope the State Police catch this guy, since regardless of whatever grudge one may have against cops in general, singling out two random officers for execution is unconscionable. But my support for the PSP in their manhunt is greatly tempered when I read of nonsense like this:
Heavily armed state troopers guarded an entrance into a neighborhood or area where they believe 31-year-old suspected cop killer Eric Frein may be hiding.
Police are checking every vehicle leaving. Local residents still have not been able to get back into their homes since last night, with some sleeping in shelters, others in their cars as it appears police are hot on Frein’s track but still haven’t got him.
No, you don’t get to kick people out of their homes and randomly search vehicles just because it’s a cop killer. You wouldn’t do that for someone who murdered a convenience store clerk, and you know it. You don’t get to suspend the Constitution just because its one of your own. This is what makes people hate cops in the first place.
Aug 15, 2014
This isn’t gun related, and it’s not really a case of true over-criminalization (though it easily could be if the state wanted to go after the family for truancy caused by the school), but it’s still something that pisses me off about the nanny culture getting its panties in a twist over any type of non-conformity.
If you’re a school administrator, there are some battles worth fighting. Students who fight, drug or alcohol abuse that impacts the school environment, and maybe even a few slaps on the wrist for overly revealing clothing. Then there are things that aren’t actually disruptive to anyone other than a tight ass who feels an absurd need to punish those who do not engage in groupthink. The principal of Muscle Shoals, Alabama appears to be one of those people.
He kicked out a girl for dying her hair red. Yup, red. Not purple, not blue, not green, not glittery silver, just red.
For the record, those other colors were all colors that I dyed my hair in high school without ever disrupting the school. The closest you might consider a disruption was at the end of my junior year when the school newspaper used me for a trivia question and asked what my normal hair color really was, and no one could remember so they kept asking me throughout the day. Yup, that’s the extent of “disruption” that hair color caused.
Her mother seems to understand how to distinguish between actual problematic behavior in teens and a bottle of red hair dye:
“I dyed my hair when I was her age. I was excited it was that, [that] it wasn’t a tattoo that she wanted or piercings, or something. There are so many girls that do it and there could be worse things. As long as she’s a good student, hair is the least of my worries.”
I framed things the same way to my mom when she was initially skeptical of my blue hair experiment. I could do drugs. I could engage in risky sexual activity. I could get myself arrested. I could “rebel” in any number of harmful ways. Instead, I was an honor student goodie two shoes who rarely did anything against the rules and I just dyed my hair. Hair that grows back. Hair that can be dyed back.
Even though I said at the beginning that this isn’t related to gun issues, I think I need to take that back a bit. The principal’s inability to handle a student who dyes her hair red is engaged in the same kind of thinking of not knowing how to distinguish between a real disruption or threat and something that’s just a little bit outside of the lines of “group” behavior that leads to actions like Six Flags banning veterans wearing military-themed shirts from their parks because the military shirt has a firearm. I’m not sure how you fix that kind of stupid by people who simply refuse to think critically and use a little common sense.
Aug 8, 2014
In a case where being polite and cooperating with police quickly turned into commands that a reasonable person would not have felt were optional so that they could leave, the Arizona Supreme Court said that in order to conduct a frisk of a person, “officers must reasonably suspect both that criminal activity is afoot and that the suspect is armed and dangerous.”
The case stems from a stop where multiple officers approached a man who was on the street having a conversation with a woman. They admit that he was polite to them and cooperating fully, and prosecutors apparently tried argued that such polite behavior at the beginning of a stop is a sign of consent to a later search. One of the officers spotted a bulge on the waistband and asked if the man was carrying a firearm. The man admitted that he was, and that’s when officers started commanding him to put his hands on his head, disarmed him, and then later arrested him once they found out he had a prior felony. (The article doesn’t say what that prior record was about.) The Court said that the stop was illegal and therefore they threw out the conviction for being a felon in possession.
Gun issues aside, I’m quite impressed with this quote from the opinion in the article where the Court’s decision said, “police interactions with members of the public are inherently fluid, and what begins as a consensual encounter can evolve into a seizure that prompts Fourth Amendment scrutiny.”